According to Jesus, the Holy Spirit has come into the world to convict us “of sin, of righteousness, and of judgment” (John 16:7-11). When it comes to convicting men of sin, the condemning evidence presented by the Holy Spirit is man’s unbelief. There is no greater proof of the sinfulness of man than his rejection of the Lord Jesus Christ. All the proof needed of man’s dark-heartedness is provided by the torn and bloody figure of Christ on the cross of Calvary. What other explanation is there of history’s darkest deed than the indescribable wickedness of the human heart?
When it comes to convicting men of righteousness; that is, of their own attempts to make themselves right with God, the condemning evidence presented by the Holy Spirit is Christ’s Ascension to the Father. By resurrecting His Son from the dead and by exalting Him to His own right hand, God the Father showed that He was completely satisfied with the sufficiency of Christ’s atoning work for our salvation. This serves as proof positive that there is no other way to be right with God apart from faith in the person and work of God’s resurrected and exalted Son.
When it comes to convicting the world of judgment, the condemning evidence presented by the Holy Spirit is the judgment of “the prince of this world.” Satan is already judged; he has been convicted and sentenced (John 12:31, Hebrews 2:14; 1 John 3:8). All that awaits him is the carrying out of his execution. His condemnation is settled and his fate sealed.
In John 3:18, Jesus says, “He that believeth on [me] is not condemned: but he that believeth not is condemned already, because he hath not believed in the name of the only begotten Son of God.” Notice, all unbelievers, just like Satan, are “condemned already.” Far from escaping God’s judgment, as many mistakenly believe, sinners are already under the judgment of God. All that awaits them is the carrying out of God’s sentence against them, which could occur at any moment.
In the title of his famous poem, Francis Thompson dubbed the Holy Spirit “the Hound of Heaven.” The poem tells of how Thompson was pursued in his life by the Spirit until the Spirit finally drove him into the arms of God. This is the purpose for which the Holy Spirit dogs the heels of sinners. He came into the world to drive the lost into the arms of infinite love. He accomplishes His mission by “convicting the world of sin, and of righteousness, and of judgment.”
O God, I pray that you will unleash the Hound of Heaven on the lost for whom I am burdened to pray. May He convict them of the guilt of their sin, of the filthy rags of their own righteousness, and of their urgent need of salvation under the ever-present possibility of eternal damnation to which they are already condemned. May the Holy Spirit dog their heels night and day until He drives them from their sin into the loving arms of the Savior. Amen.